Animal Studies

A number of studies have examined the effects of fluoride on thyroid function in experimental animals or livestock (for details, see Appendix E, Tables E-1, E-2, and E-3). Of these, the most informative are those that have considered both the fluoride and iodine intakes.

Guan et al. (1988) found that a fluoride intake of 10 mg/L in drinking water had little apparent effect on Wistar rats with sufficient iodine intake, but a fluoride intake of 30 mg/L in drinking water resulted in significant decreases in thyroid function (decreases in T4, T3, thyroid peroxidase, and 3H-leucine), as well as a decrease in thyroid weight and effects on thyroid morphology (Table E-2). In iodine-deficient rats, fluoride intake of 10 mg/L in drinking water produced abnormalities in thyroid function beyond that attributable to low iodine, including decreased thyroid peroxidase, and low T4 without compensatory transformation of T4 to T3.

Zhao et al. (1998), using male Kunmin mice, found that both iodine-deficient and iodine-excess conditions produced goiters, but, under iodine-deficient conditions, the goiter incidence at 100 days increased with increased intake of fluoride. At 100 days, the high-fluoride groups had elevated serum T4 at all concentrations of iodine intake and elevated T3 in iodine-deficient animals. High fluoride intake significantly inhibited the radioiodine uptake in the low- and normal-iodine groups.

Stolc and Podoba (1960) found a decrease in protein-bound iodine in blood in fluoride-treated female rats (3-4 mg/kg/day) fed a low-iodine diet but not in corresponding rats fed a larger amount of iodine. Both groups (low- and high-iodine) of fluoride-treated rats showed a reduced rate of biogenesis of T3 and T4 after administration of 131I compared with controls (Stolc and Podoba 1960).

Bobek et al. (1976) found decreases in plasma T4 and T3 as well as a decrease in free T4 index and an increase in T3-resin uptake in male rats given 0.1 or 1 mg of fluoride per day (0.4-0.6 or 4-6 mg/kg/day) in drinking water for 60 days.2 The authors suggested the possibility of decreased binding capabilities and altered thyroid hormone transport in blood.

Decreases in T4 and T3 concentrations have been reported in dairy cows at estimated fluoride doses up to 0.7 mg/kg/day with possible iodine deficiency (Hillman et al. 1979; Table E-3). Reduced T3 (Swarup et al. 1998) and reduced T3, T4, and protein-bound iodine (Cinar and Selcuk 2005) have also been reported in cows diagnosed with chronic fluorosis in India and Turkey, respectively.


The decrease in T3 in the group receiving 0.1 mg/day was not statistically significant (Table E-1). Note that ATSDR (2003) stated that an intermediate-duration minimal risk level (MRL) derived from this study of thyroid effects in rats would have been lower (more protective) than the chronic-duration MRL derived from a human study of bone effects (0.05 mg/kg/day).

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